From the Vault: Transform…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

I’ve been playing Magic, the Gathering for some years now, but this is the first time I’ve purchased a From the Fault product.  I DID purchase the dated “Graveborn” Premium Deck, which was an all-foil set.  I was highly tempted to get From the Vault: Angels last year, but never saw it anywhere for retail price.  (I had most of the angels anyway.)

 

This being my first one, I thought I would really take a look at the packaging.  This roduct feels like something a collector might like to keep MIB.  I don’t see the fun in that, but it is what some people do.  After spending time with this package, I’ve decided I am going to keep it to store the cards that I am not currently using.  It looks very nice.  The front is glossy and colorful with blue and orange graphics.  The back show off an image of one of the sides of each of the cards in the set.  There is a contents list on the bottom, and a message about the nature of the transforming cards.

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It opens up nicely, revealing the frontside of Huntmaster of the Fells, the backside of Liliana, Heretical Healer, and the frontside of Delver of Secrets.  You totally could stop here and just prop this product up on display somewhere.

The box feels like a display box, and upon further exploration, I discovered the correct way to open it.

 

There is a magnetic flap!  So you don’t even have to destroy the package.  NICE!

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Here’s what’s inside.

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The cards come in three cigarette wrappers.  There is a spindown life counter with a special From the Vault Transform symbol, and a nice informational poster.  Let’s look at that.

 

Nice art, with a description of each card and the story that goes along with it.  That is a nice picture of the new Delver of Secrets art, and yet another picture of Gideon on the other side.  (Gideon is very often depicted in promotional media like this.)

Now let’s look at and discuss the cards.

First of all, upon opening each pack, I discovered that they were stuck together.  I mean.  STUCK. TO. GETHER.

These cards have a special foil treatment, on both sides.  I have owned a couple of FTV printings, one of VESUVA and another of AKROMA, ANGEL OF WRATH, and those cards have the same foil treatment, but only on one side.  These cards being double sided…I guess what I’m saying is the foil treatment being on both sides is what made them glue each other together.  And it was pretty stout.  I mean, Bruna, the Fading Light was stuck to Elbrus the Binding Blade and Chandra was stuck to the Ixalan card while I began photographing.  I hadn’t even noticed!  Now separating them wasn’t scary, and there didn’t seem to be any accidents…no scratches or anything.  I just want to point out that this happened to the SpartanNerd the first time he opened a sealed From the Vault.

So here are the cards with some commentary.

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Garruk Relentless//Garruk, the Veil Cursed.

The first double sided planeswalker, and notable at that…he flips when he has a loyalty for two or less.  He is a token generator, and essentially a planeswalker with five abilities not counting the transform mechanic.  Having said all this, this is the least played of all of the cards in this set.  It is nice that they paid some attention to Garruk, however.  He hasn’t been seen since M14, when he was killing other planeswalkers all over the place.  The Wizards have decided to feature Nissa mainly as the green planeswalker mascot.

Chandra, Fire of Kaledesh//Chandra, Roaring Flame

This set features all five of the Magic Origins planeswalkers.  These each have a creature card on one side, that transforms into a planeswalker.  Chandra is the mascot for red burn strategies.  This card is a slow shock effect, and frankly a little hard to get transformed into the planeswalker form.  IF you do ever get her to level up to Chandra, Roaring Flame, you still don’t have that great of a planeswalker for all of your effort.  I supposed if you made Chandra a Commander, you might be able to do something with her.  I am placing her in my Archangel Avacyn commander deck.  (I played a match that heavily featured Chandra.  In Commander, she isn’t so bad when you have a board presence and every little bit of damage you can deal counts.)

Liliana, Heretical Healer//Liliana, Defiant Necromancer

I have been slowly building an entire foil mono-black Liliana tribal deck.  I have the stamped foil of this card, and thought that would be the prettiest version.  I was wrong.  The From the Vault printing with the extra awesome foil on both sides wins.  So I guess I am going to upgrade!

As far as all of these cards go, Liliana is the most popular commander.  She saw some fringe Standard play in her day, and still sees some Modern play sometimes in rack and zombie decks.  It is pretty easy in black to get her to flip, and then Liliana Defiant Necromancer is pretty close to Liliana of the Veil, clearly the best and most useful of Modern-legal planeswalkers.

Speaking of my Liliana tribal commander deck, the rules change that came with the release of Ixalan now lets me have multiple Lilianas out at a time.  And since I have each printing….

Huntmaster of the fells//Ravager of the Fells

A card that beat me a ton when I first began playing MTG.  I began playing in tournaments during Dark Ascension.  The Huntmaster is the definitive werewolf.

I haven’t seen this card played in Modern in awhile.  Modern wants to be a three-turn win format (It remains a four turn, teetering on three turn.), and because this card is a four drop that doesn’t have haste, it’s a little slow.  But if you can get it going, then it can win games all on its own.  Remember Kalitas?  Kalitas himself is just good enough.  And the Huntmaster of the Fells is also.

Arguel’s Blood Fast//Temple of Alcazotz

When I saw this, I said, “What??? Whoever heard of that card?”  Turns out that it is a new card from Ixalan.  This one transforms from enchantment to land.  I think this will be a nice addition to my Liliana tribal commander deck, as Necropotence is one of the things.  (Pay life for cards is a sub theme.)  The backside of the card is a powerful sac outlet.

Is this card a thing in Standard right now?  I’m not sure.  I have been out of the Standard scene for awhile.  I do have a Tezzeret deck, but have only played in two Ixalan standard tournaments.  This card has definitely not been on my radar.

Is there a precedent for this?  A Standard card in a From the Vault set?  I think they used to actually put preview cards in From the Vault sets.  So that would be pre-standard…

Arlinn Kord//Arlinn, Embraced By the Moon

Here’s one that I saw played in Standard back before the last rotation every now and then.  The “Shadows Over Inistraad” block didn’t feature as strong of a werewolf mechanic as did the original Inistraad.  Here we have a werewolf planeswalker.  She is also a planeswalker with five abilites, like Garruk, and she also makes wolves.  (Like Garruk.)  For werewolf tribal purposes, Arlinn is a must have.

Unfortunately, there is only one viable werewolf commander, Ulrich Krallenhorde, and he isn’t too great.  Still, if you are into that, jam Arlinn Kord into your deck.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer//Nissa, Sage Animist

Here is an Origins planeswalker that did see play in standard.  Really, anything that ramps for cheap works for green.  People would cram four copies of this in their deck, and play it to get out the lands they needed, and eventually they would do this and flip one of them, and proceed to have huge advantage on the board. This is one I was glad to see rotate out!

I haven’t seen her play in Modern, however.

Kytheon, Hero of Aroas//Gideon, Battle-Forged

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

(Just kidding.)  Really, this card didn’t see much play in Standard, and hasn’t in Modern or Commander either.  I think he is under-appreciated, and he probably would have fit better back in M13 standard.

He is basically a one-drop planeswalker.  That isn’t Tibalt.  So that’s something!

I think he is waiting for the right White Weenie moment to come along.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy//Jace, Telepath Unbound

And here is the money card in the set.  Jace can be had for about $25, regular printing, and $35 in foil outside of this set.  Back when he was Standard legal, he fetched $4o or more for the regular, not foil version.

Why is he so good?  He is a two drop looting creature.  You can play him early game or late game, and he is still good.  When you do his loot ability, if you have five or more cards in the graveyard, he becomes an incredible control planeswalker, with a negative three ability that lets you reliably snapcaster an instant or sorcery from your graveyard.

Is he better than Snapcaster Mage?  I don’t think so.  Almost nothing can beat the flash-in flashbacker, who becomes a great surprise chump blocker and lets you get something out of your graveyard.  Jace has to sit there for a turn before you can even activate his ability.  But he is still useful, and if you can get him to flip and keep him on board, you get great card advantage.

I’ve heard of Jace played in almost every format, even Commander.  This might be the best card in this set.  Except it’s not…

Delver of Secrets//Insectile Aberation

This probably is (the best card.)  Not many Magic the Gathering cards are as good as Delver.  And he’s a common!  So this card doesn’t cost a ton to own four copies.  But this special art special foil printing is bound to be popular with people who relaly like hitting their opponents hard and fast.

Delver is great.  He gets you card advantage.  You don’t have to trigger his transform ability if you don’t want to.  If you do want to, on turn  you can begin wrecking your opponent in the air.

Check this scenerio.  Turn one, shock in Breeding Pool.  Play Delver of Secrets.  Turn two, reveal Giant growth from the top of your library, flip your Delver  Play your Forest as land for the turn.  Declare attack for 3 in the air.  Hit Insectile Aberation with Giant Growth twice, (Because you started with one in your opening hand.)  You brought nine damage in the air on turn two.  Congratulations.  You are a jerk!

Delver is played in every eternal format.  Because he is eternally good.  That’s why!

Archangel Avacyn//Avacyn the Purifier

This is one of the funnest cards in the set.  She has Flash.  Flying.  Vigilance.  Makes things Indestructible, Sweltering Suns.  All in one Legally Blonde package.  Lots of flavor here, too.  If you followed the story of Shadows Over Inistraad, you saw Avacyn twist into a self-righteous evil.  When you Flash her in (Angel to the rescue!) everyone else on your team has indestructible until the end of turn.  And incredible shock to your opponent if you played her from your hand.  An incredible threat if she is your Commander.  And when she flips, (because one of your non-token cratures died,) she hits everything on the board for 3, and lightning bolts your opponent (s) as well.  And yes.  That’s Commander Damage!

Fun!  If you like a card that does stuff, look no further than this card.

Bloodline Keeper//Lord of Lineage

Here is the card that I think I will have the least use for.  Maybe not.  I like Vampires, and played Black Red vampires occasionally in the last Standard environment.  And here is where I think I am not that interested in building a Vampire Tibal Commander deck.  Vampires are OK.  But how often have I had a ton of them?  Not that often.

This guy is good, if you are interested in buiding such a deck.  Most Vampire decks have Olivia VOldaren as their Commander.  (She’s just sick!)  But maybe Kalitas would be good.  (No.  I know he would be good.  See above!)

Elbrus the Binding Blade//Withengar Unbound

I remember the first time I saw this card.  I knew I had to have it!  The flavor of the thing is pretty cool.  This was in the very early days of playing MTG for me, and the idea of getting that giant flyer out and smashing people was just awesome.  I had alot to learn…it is pretty hard to get seven mana to play an equipment.  Then pay to equip that to a viable attacker.  It really is pretty hard.  (I was playing this in Standard, belive it or not!)

Now Elbrus remains one of my favorite cards.  And to have this incredibly cool foi printing is just great.  And it is something else to put into Liliana’s Commander deck!

I left the weirdest for last…

Bruna,the Fading Light//…//Gisela, the Broken Blade/////Brisela, Voice of Nightmares

Weird.

Basically, the Wizards pushed the transform mechanic as far as it could go, inventing the meld mechanic, and making six cards with the ability.  Melding pieces two halves of a card on the backside of two creatures, combining them together into an eldrazi.  Brisela here represents that, as she was the best example of a played meld pair in Standard.

Gisela actually made her way into decks that didn’t feature her other half.  She is a good angel, with Flying, First Strike, and Lifelink.

It is Bruna that makes this a devastating thing.  Say you played Gisela early on, and the opponent doom bladed her.  No problem.  Play your Bruna in your second main phase (turn six or seven) and at the end step, you have Brisela!  An incredob;e 9/10 flying vigilance lifelink first strike hate machine!

THE SPARTANNERD’S RATING OF FROM THE VAULT TRANSFORM

Well.  A couple of things.  The cards sticking together is a little unnerving.  I don’t know when these were printed and packaged, but I imagine the problem might be worse if they sit unopened on a store shelf for a long period of time.  I immediately put “snugs” on mine.  (form fitting side loading card sleeves for double sleeving.)

What’s here is good.  But I think there is a glaring ommision or two.  How about Westvale Abbey//Ormandahl, Profane Prince?  I could have taken this over the Vampire, or over the Arguel’s Blood Fast.  Thing in the Ice…Hello!

The Wizards also ignored Morph and Champions of Kamigawa Flip cards.  Maybe it was economically better for the Wizards to print the double sided cards instead, but if they wanted us to get maximum power out of similar mechanics, when we could have done with Nazumi Graverobber or Willbender.

But I am happy enough.  The new printings of Liliana, Jace, Withengar, the three angels, and Garruk make me pretty happy.  I don’t play much red-green, but I am glad the Wizards printed Huntmaster of the Fells, which is about a $12 card.

The value I got for $39.99 (retail) at the Tangled Web in Spartanburg was very nice.  You already can’t find this product cheaper than $65 on TCGplayer.com.  And if the story of From the Vault Angels happens to From the Vault Transform, then it will eventually make its way above $80.

So I am happy to rate this product at 4/5, marking off because the cards sticking together worries me a little bit.  It is a great selection of cards, that came in a nice, displayable package.

Do you agree or disagree, oh Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!

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Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar Funko Legacy Collection unboxing and Review…SpartanNerd

Way back in January of 2015, I reviewed Funko’s Liliana Vess.  You can read that review here.  So do Jace and Chandra stack up to my favorite planeswalker?

I received these two as gifts from the SpartanChildren.  I happen to know that they were marked down to $5.00 a piece at Ross (discount store), which tends to happen when a figure warms the shelf at a mainline retailer for over two years.  (Notice I paid $25 for Liliana.)

(I am doing both reviews at the same time for the sake of WordPress memory…as these are largely the same unboxing experience…)

First of all…check out the new PLAYMAT!    Also a Christmas gift…from the SpartanWife!  The art shows none other than Jace Beleren groveling at Liliana for help in dealing with the Eldrazi during the “Battle for Zendikar” storyline.  I will be photographing Magic The Gathering related items on this mat from now on!

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Jace and Chandra both come in the same window style boxes.  The circlular bubble does NOT depict the card Jace Beleren nor Chandra Nalaar.  Jace’s art depicts “Jace, the Living Guildpact” and Chandra’s depicts “Chandra, Pyromaster.”  Not sure the reasoning here…Jace’s figure appears to be “Jace, Telepath Unbound.”  Chandra appears to be “Chandra, Flamecaller”, neither card was released quite yet when these figures first came out.  Maybe some insight into the design process can be found here?

The boxes use the M15 black and white styling for the packaging that you found everywhere when that set came out.  It is striking…a nifty design, really.  M15 was an interesting set…The Wizards talked at length about finding an identity for “the core set.”  M14 was largely a failure…M15 wasn’t much better, and aside from the “flip walkers,” Magic origins was also a little weak.  M15 was the first set to put holofoil stickers on the rare and promo cards.  Not that that has anything to do with these figures.

On the other hand, the M15 story was cool, showing the fight between Liliana and Garruk a little bit more intensely, and detailing how Ob Nixilis gets free.

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The back lists the other figures in this line.  As far as I know, there was only this one series of MTG figures.  Maybe I will be able to complete the collection with Garrk, Ajani, and Nissa someday.  I certainly will if they are this cheap!

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Each figure was wired in with Barbie style bread-tie wires.  It wasn’t too hard to get them out.

I tried to stand each figure up as best I could without “primping.”  These figures do not stand on their own easily, with Jace being the worse offender.  He cannot stand without being stooped over.  This was similar to Liliana, if you will recall I had to put her weight on one side.

Both figures have rocker ankles, that feature some ankle swivel.  But the way their shoes are designed, the articulation is limited.  This doesn’t help with the standing issues.

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Chandra comes with a fireball.  And Jace’s cloak is removable!  Who knew?  Notice, he doesn’t look like his picture on the playmat…must be a different cloak.

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Here are some alternate poses.  Notice that Jace just can’t do that much.

Chandra doesn’t have that much trouble holding that fireball.  She doesn’t “grip” it.  But it is sized correctly to match her fingers.  I love that they included this.  I wish she could have more flames, though.

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Both Chandra and Jace have beautiful, detailed scuplting.  And the paint is very nice as well.  I think Jace’s face could look a little less like a manequinn.

Below is each character beside their deckbox from Duel Deck Anthology….The card art depicted is “Jace Beleren,” known as “baby Jace” amongst players.  (I went and looked.  The original card art does resemble the figure.  The Duel Deck has alternate art.)

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On the other hand, Chandra doesn’t look like either version of her card art.  She looks like Chandra Flamecaller.

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These figures are pretty cool.  I am going to rate them the same as I rated Liliana.  3/5.  The whole issue of not being able to stand is really the problem.  The sculpting and painting are fine.  They are more statue than action figure, though…they look incredible, but their articulation suffers because of the extreme detail.  They could have better accessories.  Jace’s cloak is more of a liability.  Chandra could have more fire.

So the SpartanNerd rates Funko Magic the Gathering Legacy Collection Jace Beleren and Chandra Nalaar both at 3/5.  They look like who they are supposed to represent.  But they suffer as action figures.  They are really more like mini statues, that have trouble standing.  (Liliana is forever propped up in my office at work.)

Do you agree with my rating of 3/5?  Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Planechase Anthology…SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review

From now on, I am going to title what product I am reviewing before the ever prevalent “SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review”.  I fear people can’t see what I am unboxing on the index page…One more thing…this is my 300th post!  (I have deleted 13 posts in the past.  Making #287 actually #300!)

I have heaped praises on the “Duel Decks Anthology.”  Rightly so.  Of all of the decks I own, I get more use out of having those decks just ready made, ready to play, and having them handy in that box.  It plays like its own board game.  It was a reprint of valuable cards, Demonic Tutor and Ancestral Vision, AND Akroma Angel of Wrath, among many others.  I also just enjoy Duel Decks, and have collected many of them apart from what is in the Anthology.

The Planechase Anthology aims to do the same things, but bring Planechase back into the front of the public again.  Planechase is a CASUAL FORMAT.  Like Commander and Duel Decks.  I have owned one Planechase deck already, “Primordial Hunger,” featuring Thromok the Insatiable.  That deck was the cheapest at an MTG store way out of town somewhere, that had alot of old sealed product.  (You can read my review here.  Sadly, I have removed the pictures.)  And so I have limited exposure to Planechase.  The Planechase Anthology is going to bring all kinds of MTG goodness to the SpartanNerd kitchen table.

Let me say right now, the old decks cost around $50 after market, give or take sealed.  The $149.99 price tag on the Planechase Anthology is automatically a good deal.  Besides that, each plane card individually costs about $5 on TCGplayer.  But the six promotional cards included cost more…BUT I do have a complaint.  This set only comes with Planechase 2012 theme decks.  The original decks should be included…they could have been included.  (The original decks are worth way more money.  One of them is an affinity deck, pushing it up to around $150 after market value.  THe zOmbie Empire deck is about $100 to piece together!)

OK,  more information about the format.  Planechase is a special Magic the Gathering variant where oversized “planes” cards are added to the game creating an additional layer of complexity.   You roll the cubic planar dice, and change which plane you are on.  (Planes are analogous to stadium cards in Pokemon TCG).   Originally, the Wizards envisioned each person brings their own planes to the game…making it possible to play against another players constructed planar deck.  (No one plays this way anymore.)  What really happened was people found it more fun to put all the planes in a single deck, and then just see the craziness that resulted.  Planechse is super fun when paired with Commander…

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What’s this?  The SpartanCat really enjoyed the new shipping box before I removed the product!  For my unboxing and review today, you will be seeing some of my kitchen table.  Apologies.  But Planechase IS a kitchen table format…(Really, the box is very large.)

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Here the box is, in all its cellophane sealed glory.  I love the shiny foil treatment the Wizards gave it.  This time it is purple and gold…a color that is difficult for me to describe…It isn’t brown at all.  it is … shiny purplish purple-and-gold.

The back of the box displays a poster, which might find its way on my office wall at work…

The bottom picture shows you that the box is exactly the same size as the Duel Decks Anthology.

This box is important because it helps give this set the feeling of a premium board game.  Want to quickly set up a game of Magic with some friends…just break out the Planechase Anthology.  It also will make for nifty storage.

Now for the opening…(cue the angelic choir!)

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Notable, five spots for the dice, ordered in the same way as the decks…and what was that?

The Planar die is twice the size of the conventional Planar die!  (pictured on the right is a comparison shot.)

These dice are life-counters.  I wiI will keep these in the box and not take them out to tournaments.  I am partial to the green one and the orange one because I can see them more easily.  (I was partial to one of the dice in the Duel Decks Anthology for the same reason.)

Lets open some cards!

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Not quite yet.  It looks like there is some propaganda hiding under the planar deck.

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The poster features some of the planes…why these?  They chose these because they are the planes that are best seated in the minds of players.  Really new players are probably aware of the “Origins” stories.  Zendikar and Innistrad are currently in Standard.  Bolas’s Meditation Chamber is important because he IS the villain in MTG.  But I think also the Wizards wanted to include something that is going to be important in upcoming sets.  Amonkhet is the next big set, and is going to be all about Bolas according to the Wizards’ press releases.

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The back of that insert tells you how to play.  And remember what I told you about the way the Wizards originally intended players would play?  This rules insert doesn’t mention that at all, which I suppose means that  style is just about officially dead.  There are some suggestions for playing in a variety of ways.  Drafting the planes as a cube…that is an idea I hadn’t considered!

CARDS! CARDS! CARDS! CARDS!

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“Slide Deck Box” eluded me…you have to experience it to get it.  Turns out that it is exactly what it says it is.  Notice the slanted top of the inner box.  This is reminiscent of the “Bundle Box” design that is replacing “fat packs.”  This makes it easier in THAT product to open the box.  In this case, it makes it easier to grip the cards in order to remove them.

Without question, this deck box can’t hold sleeved planar cards.  It’s a good thing I didn’t purchase sleeves for them in anticipation.  (I really did mull it over, but decided to wait.  Wise decision, SpartanNerd!)

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After breaking the cellophane seal, you can see that the “phenomenon” cards are on top.  These function as powerful effects that change the game.  Chaotic Aether can really shake up the game if people are willing to pay the tax to roll the Planar die  (to roll the die at any time, a player must pay a land at first, then two lands for a second roll, then three for a third, etc.)  Morphic Tide can be devastating!  And it can totally turn the tables in a game of Magic.

After the Phenomenon cards come the planes.

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Onnake Catacomb…this is the place where Liliana got the Chain Veil!

Llanowar is funny…it makes all of your creatures into “better-than” Llanowar Elves.  (Lannowar Elves taps to add one green mana to your mana pool.)

There are over 70 different planes!  I haven’t heard of most of them.

The thing about this set…it is all about FLAVOR.  A person might not know anything about MTG.  Having them sit down and play the game this way will immerse them in the basic lore and the basic “What is this game Magic the Gathering all about?”  The game becomes more than just fun decks to play with cool art.  It becomes a story.  And that is very good because the flavor or MTG is really awesome.

A little rant.  It has been said that Mortal Kombat (and its associated video games) isn’t that great as far as fighting games go.  But it is so cool in flavor that it remains appealing, even though it is trumped by the mechanics of other games in its genre.  MTG has the opposite problem sometimes.  The game is so cool and fun, but people don’t have to be aware of the story surrounding it for the game to work.  How many times have I seen new players ask about the flavor text of a card, and what purpose does it serve?  It serves no mechanical purpose…it is only there for extra fun.  Extra flavor.  Extra points in the coolness department.  At one time I didn’t care about the story.  Over the years, I have picked up on some of it, and even read through some of it, like the Battle for Zendikar story and the way Nissa and Chandra drew up a “Channel-Fireball” combo to kill the titans.  I still have a lot to learn about the story.  The Planechase Anthology is without a doubt going to inspire me to look up information about the different planes and locations in MTG.

Onto the rest of the decks.  Each one comes with its own “slide deck box.”  The colored “Planeswalker Symbol” is the only indication of which deck is inside besides the label on the flat side of the inside box.  Notice the one of the far left…the “orange” symbol.  That box has extra items inside.

One of those items is the basic guide to playing Magic (quick reference card).  Which is not a guide to playing Planechase.  So I’m not sure if including it was a good idea.  (I just threw it away, as usual.)

The other item is the tokens.  Double Sided.

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I am showing you one side, then flipping them.  Notice a ton of Goblin tokens, and Saproling tokens.  If you have ever played decks that produce these kinds of token creatures, then you know you might just need this many.  Saproling token decks can get out of control!

NOW FOR THE INDIVIDUAL DECKS.

Each deck is called a “theme deck.”  What this means is, each deck showcases a mechanic, and has cards that support that mechanic.

I will be showing you the eight rares (YES!) from each deck first.  And then I will show you notable things about the decks as well.

PRIMORDIAL HUNGER

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This is the only deck I already have spent time with playing, and you saw what I had to say if you clicked the link in the top paragraphs.  Since I wrote that review, I have played this deck on numerous occasions.  The Dragonlair Spider is ALWAYS a winner.  Lots of times, people underestimate him.  Hellion Eruption is also an amazing win-con.  The Devour mechanic, showcased in this deck, requires a little work.  You have to sacrifice things…you are giving up board presence in order to make a big creature.  This is risky, and sometimes doesn’t pay off.  I think it better to “go wide,” load up the board, and then either over run the opponent, or do the Hellion Eruption.

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Of the Devour creatures, this one is the most playable.  On turn three or four, you can have a fatty that can’t be ignored.

Most of the pre-con decks the Wizards put out contain mana-fixers.  This deck has “bounce lands,” and a few other things.  Skaarg the Rage Pit can be a really good mana-sink.

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These other spells can’t be ignored!  Overrun, Fires of Yavimya, and Fling are excellent finishers.  Fires of Yavimaya is like a trap…people tend to forget that you can sacrifice it to give all of your creatures +2/+2!

One more incidental thing…Will the deck fit in the “slide deck box” when properly sleeved?  (Drum roll)

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YES!!!

NIGHT OF THE NINJA

This is the deck the SpartanKid is most excited about.  I looked at purchasing this about a year ago for him…he is very interested in Ninjas.  After-market, the deck gets about $7o.  It came down to either Night of the Ninja or some Mega-Man thing.  He went with the Mega-Man…

But now, I own a copy, and he can play it all he wants!

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The theme of this deck is Evasion.  Virtually every creature in this deck has some form.  Flying, Intimidate, Fear, Shroud, Deathtouch, Hexproof, and the feature mechanic, Ninjutsu.  With Ninjutsu, you can swap out an attacking creature that doesn’t have a blocker with the creature with Ninjutsu from your hand.  Surprise!  Throw on a “when this deals combat damage” effect, and you get some cool advantages.

Notable here, is Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni.  This guy is the general for a rat-tribal commander deck!

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Baleful Strix.  One of the best Two-Drop creatures in all of MTG.  Flying, Deathtouch, AND card draw.  Sick.

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Here are the lands.  Nothing noteworthy here.  (Why didn’t we get Rogue’s Passage?  I think it’s because every creature here already can’t be blocked at least without consequences.)

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The other spells.  Farsight Mask…that’s hilarious!  Why would it be tapped unless an opponent tapped it?

CHAOS REIGNS

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A little story…The original picture of the eight rares was very blurry, so at 3:00 AM I retook the picture.  And this is when I noticed that the “slide deck boxes” all have outline artwork for their featured rare card.  So this is why these cards are sleeved, and why I included the inner box.

Maelstrom Wanderer.  A Three-Color creature, with “Cascade, cascade.”  Yes.  This isn’t a typo!  Chaos Reigns is aptly named because of the Cascade mechanic.  When you cast (important!) a spell with Cascade, you get to reveal cards off the top of your library until you reveal a card with a lower mana cost, and then you cast that card for free.  So Maelstrom Wanderer lets you Cascade twice.

(The other use of the Cascade mechanic is to wash your dishes.  HA HA HA!)

Cascade is one of the flashiest mechanics in MTG, and also the most unpredictable.  It is at the heart of “Restore Balance” decks, as well as “Living Death” decks.

The other thing about the Maelstrom Wanderer.  Three color creatures, especially in the combination of BLUE RED GREEN, are rather rare historically.  We got a few recently in Khans block.  But this guy seemed to stand alone for a long while.

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The Shardless Agent…This is a ten-dollar card!  In the right deck, it can almost be a Collected Company.

It seems I forgot another important picture…Bloodbraid Elf.  (Banned in Modern!)

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It was recently brought to my attention that this guy is banned in Pauper.  I wonder why? (It’s obvious.)

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Here is a notable card.  Do you want to know what a vanilla creature is if it takes a mana of every color to cast?  Fusion Elemental provides that standard baseline.  8/8.

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This is a five color deck.  Such a deck has a hard time finding the resources it needs.  Shimmering Grotto and Rupture Spire help with this.  Vivid Creek and Terramorphic Expanse are also always useful.

But even this wouldn’t be enough.

img_9516The five spells on the left also help you fix your mana.

Every other spell is pretty good.  Our main plan, though is to smash the opponent with our creatures.

SAVAGE AURAS

This deck is based on enchantment auras, specifically Totem Armor.

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The Kor Spiritdancer is important…It is a strong piece of the Hexproof deck in Modern.  Maybe I can make my Bogles deck work better now that I own a copy.  (I will need three more, of course.  Do-able…it is a ten-dollar card.)

Krond, of the Dawn-Clad.  If you can get this guy going, you have no business losing.  You can exile their permanents all over the place.  He is a flying, vigilant threat.

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I thought these two notable…Silhana Ledgewalker has the aforementioned Hexproof.  If you get a few auras on it, there is little that the opponent can do.  It also is hard to block…

Dreampod Druid…remember all of those Saproling tokens?

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Nothing spectacular about the lands.  The City Tree is a notable inclusion.

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You might have noticed that this deck is a little light on creatures.  This is because it is heavy on other spells, especially auras…especially totem armor.  The deck also generates tokens, helping ensure you aren’t holding unusable “dead” cards.  (Totem Armor.  If enchanted creature would be destroyed, destroy the aura with Totem Armor instead.)

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS AFTER UNBOXING.

This is a terrific product.  Thanks to the SpartanWife for getting it for me on our anniversary.  Thanks to the Tangled Web as well, who gave me a discount.  A great thing too, because today I have been fighting a Kidney Stone.  And the store owner, Daniel Macabee, is a super nice guy.  If you ever find yourself in Spartanburg, SC, go by the Tangled Web Comic Book store.  You won’t regret it.

As I have been typing into the wee hours of the night/morning, dealing with my problem, I have spent some time thinking about it.  There is only one physical problem with the Planechase Anthology.  There is nowhere to put the 35 double-sided tokens.  I sleeved them in transparent Dragon Shields.  But even if I didn’t, the slide deck boxes wouldn’t accomodate them.  And besides that, which tokens go with which deck?  This is a nit-picking thing, but notable.If the Wizards hadn’t put that giant Magic The Gathering logo on the plastic tray under the dice, but instead gave us another deck box for the tokens, that would have been better.  True, I could remove the tray and store the tokens underneath, but that takes away from the convenience of the the thing as a dedicated board game.

The only other negative thing I could say is…we don’t have Planes cards for Tarkir, Kaladesh, or Theros.  All of these planes have been introduced to us since these decks were originally printed.  The Wizards could have given us some exclusive planes cards featuring those locations just for this set.  And that would drive some collectors crazy…crazy enough to purchase this product even if they already owned the rest of it.

But besides those two items, I haven’t got any complaints.  I really had to dig for that second one…but maybe its the pain medicine.

I give the Planechase Anthology a 5/5!

It is a terrific box set that promises hours of fun at the kitchen table in the future.  It is a great collection of re-prints, including some scarce rares.  It is four ready-to-play decks for anytime.  It is good Magic.  Plain and simple.

THE SPARTANNERD GIVES THE PLANECHASE ANTHOLOGY A 5/5.  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

SpartanNerd…Early Thoughts on Planeswalker Packs.

The Wizards decided to discontinue the age-old practice of putting out “intro decks.”  They seem to want new players to be able to learn the game, become competitive, and eventually successful in local area tournaments.  The intro deck was the beginning of this ramp, but it had some problems.  First of all, virtually every intro deck ever put out is weak…They are generally missing mana-fixing, and generally have only one or two copies of cards that would be essential, but are often easily replaced with better options.

I, the SpartanNerd, have reviewed several intro decks.  And in virtually every case, the booster packs that came with the deck had more usefulness.

Not that no intro deck ever came with useful and valuable cards.  The intro-deck with Spear of Heliod comes to mind.  That card saw legitimate play in Theros block.  And I famously picked up a Dark Ascencion deck that came with two Inkmoth Nexus, and Hellrider to boot.  But most of them…have been lackluster offerings.  Decks that frustrate new players, especially kids, when they try and play them in constructed tournments and get their face re-arranged by someone who built their deck to work against a metagame.  Throw in that other sealed products, like Duel Decks and Commander contain cards that aren’t Standard or sometimes even Modern legal, and new players can hit a brick wall of confusion and frustration.

This is why the Planeswalker Pack is already destined to be a failure.  And I haven’t even seen the contents!

I want to talk about what we have been shown from the “Kaledesh” block Planeswalker packs.

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These two cards are pretty.  They are flashy.  They WILL  capture the young player’s attention.  When I started playing, you couldn’t find Planeswalker cards anywhere.  Now you get fresh new ones that come with a deck.  Fresh new FOIL ones at that.

But these two cards are instantly nerfed.  They both cost six…so say for instance on turn six you play Chandra, Pyrogenius, and you get to “shock” an opponent.

The problem with this of course is this…

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You are getting a six drop, sorcery speed “Shock.”  And while Shock isn’t in the Standard game right now, there are better burn spells than Chandra.

But SpartanNerd, She will be at 7 loyalty.

This is true.  And this is why Chandra, Pyrogenius will work as an intro product.  She will be fun against the Nissa, Nature’s Artisan deck.  You can even bump her down and she will be at 2 loyalty…she lives for another turn at least.  She might be fun in a duel deck type of situation.  But not against a metagame of Battle for Zendikar block, Shadows Over Innistrad block, and Kaladesh block.

Nissa, Natures Artisan suffers from the same problem.  How many better ways in all of MTG are there to gain three life? Filtering for land?

Chandra becomes a sweeper with additional burn if she ultimates, and Nissa becomes “Overrun”.  But you have to get to ten loyalty counters.  Not going to happen in a real tournament environment.

Now we haven’t seen the rest of the decks.  But we are promised at least five more cards designed to go with these planeswalkers specifically.  Those cards might make it possible to play these in a tournament successfully.  We’ll just have to see.

But I say the Wizards are going about getting new players ALL WRONG.  I am a teacher, and I love teaching kids new skills.  I love it when the light comes on and they “get” a new concept.  MTG is a FUN game, worthy of brainpower and thinking through strategies like deckbuilding, etc.  I like playing against new players, and helping them to see their triggers, phase changes, combat tactics, etc.  New players are LUCKY if they play against me.  I remember when I started, too many players were cut-throat, and beat me on what I thought were technicalities.  Problems that I didn’t see, and wasn’t sure they were even playing fair.  I just loved the game, so kept on playing with determination.

But news flash.  Kids don’t like to lose.  And you pay, say $5.00 of your allowance to play in a tournament for 4-6 hours on a Friday night, only to get smashed in every game, and it becomes clear why new players don’t feel successful.  All this is WORSE if you happen to be running illegal cards that you JUST PURCHASED in a Commander deck.  A deck that costed $35, and took your birthday money.

I propose a completely different approach than just putting out new eye-catching product.

The Wizards should go back to the CORE SET.  But this time, structure tournaments around it for NEW PLAYERS.  A product like Planeswalker Packs (and intro decks) could fit right in with what I propose.  Core Set tournaments would LOCK OUT anyone who has a DCI number oder than say, two years old.  This would have to be policed by the TO.  But I believe this to be the best way for the Wizards to help the new players learn the game and find some success.  Such a tournament would be independent of the Standard environment.  I remember seeing the words “expert set” on some MTG expansions.  (Dragon’s Maze comes to mind.)  Standard would be made of “Expert Sets.”  The Core Set beginner tournaments would play like Magic in its purest form.  Just use the evergreen keywords, and examples of each card type.  Use basic lands and Evolving Wilds.  Or maybe tap lands.  The most successful Core Set in my opinion was M13.  This set reprinted the Titans.  It had Legendary creatures.  It had staples.  It was great fun!  This set captured my kids’ imaginations.  But when we played decks make from this set against Innistrad block cards, we would lose.  I think we would have had a good shot in a closed off, core set only environment.

So when the Planeswalker Pack bites the big one, and the Wizards try a different plan, just point them to the SpartanNerd Blog!

 

SpartanNerd Unboxing and Review…Magic the Gathering “Demonic Deals” Intro pack

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I picked up this intro pack for a couple of reasons…

The Origins Clash Pack seems a little lame.  I DO like the new art for Siege Rhino.  But other than that, there is almost no reason for me to purchase that.  I don’t have many cards from the Origins set.  Much less black cards from the set.  I already had a Kothophed, but have yet to play him.  This intro pack has an alternate, better art in foil.  It also has another Fleshbag Marauder, and I only had three copies.  So…throw in two booster packs, and it seemed like an OK deal this time.

But, just so you know, the last intro pack I purchased was so lame I didn’t bother posting a review…(It was an intro pack from Born of the Gods…the one featuring Silent Sentinel.)

So does “Demonic Deals” change things?  Keep reading!

The box has the regular packaging.  No surprise here.  You get a little blurb about what this deck is about.  And that’s it.  But on the front we see Kothophed, Soul Hoarder.

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Opening the box reveals the contents…the deck in cellophane with Kothophed on front, a guide to playing Magic, a guide to playing this deck, and two Origins Booster Packs.

The guide to playing Magic is notable this time, it is an updated version…still, it will land in my trashcan, but here is a picture just so you can see.

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The other paper features some really nice Liliana artwork and the decklist for each deck.  I am including a close-up for this specific deck.

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I’m going to take a broad picture of the cards as I open the cellophane, and then talk about the significant cards only.

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I have yet to cast Kothophed and use his ability.  I don’t know if he’s that good or not.  A 6/6 flyer for six mana, including two blacks isn’t so bad.  He would be good for devotion, but only as a one of in any competitive deck at that mana cost.  I could potentially see a Drown In Sorrow or similar creating massive card advantage for you.  One of the two rares in this deck.  The other rare is Chandra’s Ignition.

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A five drop sweeper meant for Red-Deck-Wins.  It works well in this deck, whose secondary color is red.  Whatever deck it is in has to be reliant on creatures.  Black decks don’t generally mind sweepers.  More card advantage!

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I love this guy!  He is always a great enabler, and as a 3/1 is a great attacker.  This makes my fourth copy, so I am now happy!    I do like the older art better.  (But really, they are both butt-ugly.)

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I was surprised how good Undead Servant and Nantuko Husk work so nicely together when playing the deck.  Great synergy!

Now for the lands…

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Nothing special at all, really.  Evolving wilds is really sort of unnecessary.  You generally draw the land you need.  I suppose it helps a little.

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The next group of cards is the other spells.  Notable here is Act of Treason, a classic trick where you steal their creature and attack with it or use it as you see fit.  In this deck, you are meant to sacrifice their creature while it is under your control.  I’ve never felt that Weight of the Underworld was good for removal.  Nightsnare is a new expensive Thoughtsieze type of spell.  Reave Soul is a really bad doom blade.  Cruel Revival lets you kill their guy at instant speed and return a zombie from your graveyard to your hand.

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A couple of the new spells have “Spell Mastery” abilities.  They let you do something extra if you have spells in your graveyard.  This is going to be very relevant in the upcoming  Standard format.

How the Deck Plays…

I played three matches against the SpartanKid’s most recent deck, a blue-while control deck featuring Dragonlord Ojutai and Narset, Transcendent.  The deck lost miserably on its first testing, however performed wonderfully in the second and third rounds, really slam dunking the third.

It is a great start to a good aggro deck.  I believe a person could be competitive if they adjusted it for standard.  Switch out the poor removal options with Heroes Downfall, Bile Blight, or similar.  Drop the expensive spells in favor for Mogis Marauders.  The instructions suggests Liliana, Heretical Healer of course.  And she would be great for this deck as your lots of creatures should be dying a lot to gain you incremental advantage.  But this deck isn’t really a discard deck at heart.  It wants to focus more on beatdown and sacrifice.

What came in my booster packs?

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Pack 1

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The commons were fairly meh…Playable in this deck are Shambling Ghoul, Dark Dabbling, Lightning Javelin, and Bonded Construct.  Probably only Dark Dabbling to make any kind of improvement.

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The uncommons…not bad.  Another Fleshbag Marauder.  And that other removal spell I’m not yet that fond of.

And what rare(s)???

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Pia and Kiran Nalaar…Everyone says they remind us of Anax and Cymede.  Casting them gets you two flyers.  I got a foil Evolving Wilds, a forest, and an Elemental Token.

Pack 2

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At common, more playable cards.  A one-drop elf.  Another Cobblebrute.  Weight of the Underworld, and Fiery Impulse.  Returned Centaur also can help you load your graveyard to help Spell Mastery and re-animation tricks.

The uncommons…IMG_6944

The only thing playable here is Chief of the Foundry, a lord for artifact creatures.  he would work well with Pia and Kiren.

And what rares?  (Drum roll)

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Mage Ring Responder.  I have prior experience with the responder from when I drafted Origins.  He can be a beast!

Also notable is the checklist card for the new double-sided planeswalkers.  It is apparently a new rule that you may no longer just use a sleeve to conceal your double-sided card.  This “backpack card” is now required in serious tournaments.

How does the SpartanNerd rate Magic the Gathering “Demonic Deals” Intro pack?

This deck stands a head taller than the past couple of intro decks I reviewed.  That in itself is an accomplishment.  And that this pre-constructed deck beat a constructed deck meant for a tournament says something else.  More testing will be required to really say.

I think I would like to say a few things about this as an entry-level product.

The only thing working against it is the deck’s title.  Ok, grandma says to grandson, “What would you like for Christmas.”  Grandson indicates Magic cards.  So she goes to Wal-Mart, and sees the name of the deck is “Demonic Deals.”  Not such a good move…

I have written about demons in MTG before, and the Wizards also addressed their use.  In Magic, they are purely fantasy.  Any level-headed person should be able to figure that out.  But people don’t take demons lightly, and shouldn’t.

But other than that gripe, this is a wonderful product!  The two booster packs gave you enough cards that you could create a semi-sideboard.  It could have gone the other way, but didn’t.  In this here and now.  And that’s why this was an over-the top successful offering for the new Magic player.  The boosters also pave the way to make a person interested in Planeswalker cards, building an elf tribal deck, and an artifact deck.  The inclusion of the Forest means a new player with NO OTHER cards now has another mana source to try and build a deck with some of the new green cards.  A new player would be left wondering about blue and white cards as well.  And the foil Evolving Wilds is very nice for a new player.

This time, the addition of the two booster packs that contained relevant cards for new players made me up my rating.  I was very satisfied, and know that Wizards customers will be too.

My rating of Magic the Gathering “Demonic Deals” Intro pack is 4/5.  It is marked down because of the name, and because of its “not-quite-ready-for-standard-tournaments” status.  I don’t believe it was meant for that though…it was meant to be played and home and learned with.

The SpartanNerd rates “Demonic Deals” 4/5.  Do you agree or disagree, Hub City Geeks?  Let me know in the comments!